Top 5 tips for catering for customers with allergens

Once again, examples of the catering industry’s inability to deal with their customers’ special dietary requirements have hit front page news. And once again, this inattentiveness and lack of care have resulted in tragic and totally avoidable loss of life.

I believe passionately that eating out should be a relaxed, enjoyable experience for everyone. Whether your customers have made decisions about their diet for religious, health or ethical reasons, or they must be careful about what they eat due to allergies, they should have the ability to choose from a variety of interesting dishes, safe in the knowledge that their requirements are not being compromised.

This can’t be underestimated, especially when misinformation or lack of information can lead to discomfort, anaphylaxis and even death.

So what can you do to protect your customers, and yourself?

1. Understand. Do you truly understand the nature of food allergies, disorders and intolerances? Do you know what eating the wrong food may do to someone? Coeliac disease, for example, despite being on the rise, is still not always fully understood. It’s not an allergy but rather a serious autoimmune disorder where gluten damages the gut and prevents the absorption of nutrients from food, leading to a range of uncomfortable, painful symptoms. Understand this and you’ll make sure you protect your customers who require gluten free dishes.

2. Train. Make sure each and every member of your front of house and kitchen team is aware of:

  • The 14 allergens
  • Which dishes on your menu contain which allergens
  • The repercussions of a customer eating the wrong thing

Misinformation and cross-contamination simply must not and cannot happen.

3. Label. All allergens must be listed using an easy to understand system. This includes labelling on pre-packaged items and anything you can help yourself to, such as cakes. Similarly, allergens on menus, daily special sheets and chalkboards should be clearly specified.

4. Communicate. It seems simple but can be so easy to get wrong. Make sure that your have a fail-safe system for communicating between customers, front of house staff and kitchen. There should be clarity and no ambiguity. It’s also worth having an “allergen expert” available on each shift to offer additional knowledge and reassurance to other staff and customers alike.

5. Create. Eating out must be safe, but also pleasurable. You can have great fun creating imaginative, delicious dishes which appeal to everyone’s taste buds and imagination, not just customers with special requirements. Gluten free gâteaux CAN be light and fluffy, scones CAN be made dairy free and there are now fantastic options for vegan “sausages” and “burgers”.

Contact Victus today to find out how we can help you manage allergens. As food and beverage specialists, we can also help you source great ingredients and products to create delicious FreeFrom dishes to ensure a great dining experience for ALL your customers!